Gambling Laws and Poker in Arkansas

Last updated: April 25, 2020 Online poker still hasn’t been discussed in the legislature. There’s no bill in site either. The good news is that Arkansas is slowly expanding gaming throughout the state. The state started offering sports betting in Feb. 2019 and voters approved Constitutional Amendment 100 in Nov. 2019. The amendment expanded gaming in existing racetracks and opened the door for two new casinos in Pope County. 

The law hit a setback in April 2020 though when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox put a hold on the application due to technicalities. This is a developing situation, but the Arkansas legislature and voters seem to be in favor of expanding gaming. It’s yet to be determined if the judiciary branch will be a temporary roadblock or a permanent deadend. 

Arkansas

Photo by Jessica Denham on Unsplash

Online Poker in Arkansas 

Arkansas takes a fairly firm stance on gambling.  The “Gambling Devices – Betting” in Section 5-66-106 of their state statute states:

“It is unlawful for any person to bet any money or other valuable thing or any representative of anything that is esteemed of value on any game prohibited by ß 5-66-104. Upon conviction, a person who violates this section is guilty of a violation and shall be fined in any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars nor less than fifty dollars.”

This definition is broad and seems to cover everything when making a “bet”. Section 5-66-104 which clarifies things a little more:

“It is unlawful for a person to set up, keep, or exhibit any gaming table or gambling device, commonly called “A. B. C.”, “E. O.”, roulette, or rouge et noir, any faro bank, or any other gaming table or gambling device, or bank of the like or similar kind, or of any other description although not named in this section, regardless of the name or denomination.”

This includes:

  • Adapted, devised, or designed for the purpose of playing any game of chance; or at which any money or property may be won or lost.

Penalty:

  • Upon conviction, a person who violates this section is guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor and shall be fined in any sum not less than one hundred dollars and may be imprisoned any length of time not less than thirty days nor more than one year.

The penalties aren’t harsh, and it’s been determined in federal court that poker is a game of skill, not chance. The laws are strict but don’t directly address poker. While poker is determined to be a game of “skill” federally, Arkansas might see it differently.

Will Arkansas Regulate Online Poker?

Even land-based gaming is getting pushback in Arkansas, so it seems unlikely there will be online poker anytime soon. That being said, Arkansas has been expanding gaming over the last few years. After years of strict rules against gaming, the state allowed more casino games at race tracks in 2005. 

In 2018 a referendum passed that let racetracks allow slots and table games. Then, in 2019, voters passed Amendment 100 to expand gaming even more. All of these were measures to expand live gaming, there’s still no online gaming bills. 

Since there appears to be momentum, online gaming could very well be next. Arkansas, like many states, is also looking for new ways to increase state tax revenue. Online poker and gaming has proven to be an effective way to do this.

If Arkansas does take up online poker legislation, it might have an easier path than other states. Indian and tribal casinos have pushed back against online poker in other states, but Arkansas doesn’t have any in the state. That could make the road to legalization smoother.

They are one of thirteen states in the USA that do not allow commercial or Indian casinos in their state. The others being Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in Arkansas?

Nope. There’s still no PokerStars in Arkansas. PokerStars left the United States after Black Friday in April 2011 and only started coming back in 2018. New Jersey was the first state in came back in and then it launched in Pennsylvania. There’s a chance you can play PokerStars in Arkansas in the future, but the state would have to regulate online poker first.

PokerStars is only coming back to US states that are giving it a license. But if you’re a poker player in Arkansas looking for some good PokerStars alternatives, you have options. There are plenty of sites that take players from all 50 states, even Arkansas, and have great games and tournaments. We’ve reviewed the best ones like Ignition Poker and Americas Cardroom are great options. We’ve reviewed them and more sites in detail, just click below for our top reviews:

Bovada.lv

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Ignition

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BetOnline

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SportsBetting.ag

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America's Cardroom

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Black Chip Poker

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Intertops

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Legal Gambling in Arkansas

Arkansas Scholarship Lottery

The state allows four main types of legal gambling:

  • State Lottery
  • Pari-mutuel Wagering
  • Racetracks
  • Charitable Gaming

State Lottery – On November 4, 2008, Arkansas voters approved the state lottery. The Arkansas Scholarship Lottery was born and the state started selling lottery tickets. You have to bet at least 18 to play the lottery proceeds go to scholarships for Arkansas citizens. 

Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Racetracks – For more than fifty years, pari-mutuel wagering was the only legal gambling activity in Arkansas. Bets go against other gamblers and not on the gambling house. Payoffs are made from this pool and divided among the winners. Click here for a complete guide to the wagering Rules and Regulations.

Arkansas has two race tracks, Oakland Park in Hot Springs and Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis. Southland Park Gaming & Racing completed a $37.4 million expansion project was in 2014. This brought their total gaming machines to 1,950. In 2018, Oaklawn Park and Southland Park generated $5.2 billion in gross revenue. They paid-out $4.89 billion of their gross winnings, with an average of $3 million per month going to state taxes. Arkansas’ horse racing and greyhound racing play a big role in tourism promotion and publicity.

Specific State-by-State Laws
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